Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Bougainvillea:
Bougainvillea species

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Form: A rambling vine.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen in zones 9b-12. Damaged by freezing temperatures.
Growth rate: Moderate to rapid depending on cultivar and water.
Mature Size: 20-40' long depending on species.
Flowers: Small, yellow-white, waxy tubes surrounded by three 1-2" long, colorful, papery bracts. The brachs come in many colors, including bright red, pink, purple and white, and are edible. The flowers have no scent.
Bloom: Fall through spring in zones 9b-12, spring through fall in zones 8b-9a.
Fruit: Insignificant.
Leaves: Ovate to elliptical, green.
Stems: Woody and normally very thorny; some recent varieties are nearly thornless. These vines have to be fastened to a vertical surface if their thorns do not hold them in place.
Roots: These plants have weak, fragile root systems.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees and a few butterflies. Birds may use the plant as a habitat.
Toxic / Danger: Thorns. Sap in the stems, and thorn pricks, can cause contact dermatitis.
Origin: South America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-12. This plant is damaged below 32°F. In zone 8b, in winter, it must be in a container moved indoors or next to south-facing wall where it will die to the ground and revive in the spring.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Drought tolerant: Drought resistant.
Sun: Full sun.
Water once established: Every two weeks after the first year. The soil must dry out between waterings. Excess water will reduce flowering.
Soil: Well drained, pH 5.6-6.0 (acidic). This plant is adaptable to a variety of soil types, but enriched soil is beneficial. High nitrogen fertilizer will reduce flowering.
Mulch: In regions with winter freezes, mulch Heavily in the fall.
Planting: When planting, handle the root ball with great care to keep it intact. Its roots are very thin and do not hold the soil together. After planting, water roots thoroughly, adding a root stimulant. Use flower fertilizer every two months until the end of the growing season. During the first year in the ground, water regularly until winter, then keep almost dry. Bougainvillea can be grown in pots.
Prune: In late winter, remove frost damage. Trim all branches back to 20' for the best bloom. Wear gloves when pruning to avoid thorns and irritating sap.
Litter: High. Bract and leaf cleanup, pruning, training.
Propagation: Cuttings and layering.
Uses: Ornamental, thorny barrier, privacy screen. The brachs, said to have a gently bitter taste, are used to add color to salads and also to make tea.

Plants in the Bougainvillea genus are members of the Four O'clock family (Nyctaginaceae). Those sold in nurseries include several species and hybrids, including Bougainvillea glabra, B. spectabilis, and B. peruviana.

Do you have additional information or a different experience for these plants that you would like to share? Email All contributions are welcome and appreciated.

Bougainvillea: Bougainvillea - flowers

Latest update: December, 2019
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